When learning to overcome OCD you might spend a lot of time working with a therapist to develop a hierarchy of exposures and to slowly work through them over time. This is obviously important as it’s a proven way to learn to overcome obsessions.
But so often life throws up opportunities for us to practice exposure all over the practice and if we are aware fo this and willing to take on the occasional challenge here and there it can be a great way to add in daily exposures that are often more compelling and helpful than other types of exposure.
For example, if you obsess about what others think about you and therefore you habitually avoid saying anything in team meetings at work, this is a great opportunity for an exposure activity. You really may not want to speak up, just the idea of doing it might give you a lot of anxiety, but if you’re able to overcome that and find a way to speak up anyway, you will walk away with a sense of pride at having put yourself out there.
Often part of the problem with doing exposure is the anticipation beforehand. Anticipatory anxiety is real and is intimately linked to OCD, the build up of fear about doing something is so often worse than the thing itself. The great thing about facing fears in an opportunistic way is that you can skip the anticipation and just jump on in to the fear.
Now of course sometimes, learning how to manage that anticipatory anxiety is important too and this is where planned exposure activities can be helpful. But if there is something that you think you could do, if only you didn’t have to think about it too much before hand, then this kind of approach can be very helpful.
A Word Of Caution
A word of caution though, try not to bite off more than you can chew. Remember you need to try and keep exposures realistic and manageable, going for something that gives you a 10 out of 10 of anxiety might seem like the quickest and bravest route to freedom from OCD, but this can backfire if you are overwhelmed by the anxiety.
That being said, see if you can think about the kind of exposure activities that you could work on in your day to day life and try and incorporate one or two. You may find that this gives you an extra sense of achievement and empowerment as you start to tackle little things that you would normality avoid.
Remember that getting over OCD is all about taking small steps each day and building a sense of change and momentum. You don’t need to run the entire marathon in one day. Start taking action today and you might be surprised in a month from now, how things begin to change.
As a long term strategy for managing OCD, unexpected exposure activities are a great way to keep you moving in the right direction and to keep on leaning into discomfort. The more we can make this a habit of mind, a way in which you respond to adversity, the more freedom and resilience you will build.
OCD doesn’t have to be this awful negative thing that dominates our lives and that we need to defeat. Yes it brings it’s challenges, but it also brings it’s fair share of opportunities to, a chance to grow, develop and to become more accepting.
Building this acceptance mindset in response to OCD and getting into the habit of leaning into daily challenges is what it’s all about and in my experience it helps us to live happier and more fulfilled lives that are not dominated by fearful obsessions, but by our values and dreams.